New food truck, Munch Box, stuck in impound

BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) — Dan Kothen and Heather Stack are in a tough place. They’re new business owners, trying to make it in the busy and competitive food truck game in Greater Buffalo.

But it’s a little tough to do that when the vehicle they use to cook the food is parked behind a fence — and technically, the property of the city.

“So we saved some money, got ourselves a food trailer,” said Stack, who’s also a local comedian. “Got it back to Buffalo — we bought it in Pennsylvania — we brought it here, scraping and saving whatever money we could.”

Dan and Heather are the proud owners of Buffalo’s newest restaurant on wheels, Munch Box.

They’ve invested approximately $20,000 for the trailer, the food service equipment, permits, licensing, registration — just about everything they’d need to go into business.

Turns out, they needed something more: A parking space.

“Where it was parked, we can walk right outside our apartment, look down the street and see it,” she said. “So any time we were coming or going, it was there.”

That was until Monday morning, when Kothen left for work. The Munch Box was no where to be found.

The couple assumed the worst.

“Our immediate thought was maybe somebody has a chop shop, somebody took it, started selling everything inside, selling the metal, and we’ll never see it again,” Stack said. “But sure enough, it looks like it was stolen by the city of Buffalo.”

Not exactly.

Put it this way, parking on city streets isn’t a free-for-all. And for a commercial vehicle, the rules are even more stringent. Among the violations, according to Parking Commissioner Kevin Helfer, the trailer was unhitched and left in its space for far too long.

He said a nearby business complained, and the city ticketed the trailer Thursday and Friday, and chalked the tires 72 hours before it was towed Monday morning. Neither Heather nor Dan said they noticed tickets or strange markings. Helfer also said commercial vehicles aren’t permitted on city streets past 7 p.m.

And the cost is mounting.

Both have part time jobs to help supplement the food trailer. But when a source of income is locked behind a fence costing money instead of making it, the frustrations rise like the dough on their deep-fried PB&J.

“This is a law I’ve never heard of,” Stack said. “I live on a street with alternate side parking in Allentown. You don’t move your car unless you have to. And I don’t know what my recourse is. I feel like parking enforcement stole my vehicle, and are now holding it hostage until I pay them to get it back.

Stack and Kothen say they won’t be deterred. They hope to retrieve the Munch Box by Friday, and hit the streets once again.

“It wasn’t deterring us when we thought it was stolen” Stack said. “I’m not going to let the city of Buffalo get me down.”

But they’ll have to incur a hit first.

“It doesn’t sound like a lot of money, $250, but it’s a big dent in what we’re trying to do,” she said. “That $250 is enough to buy us food to run our biz for a night.”

In addition to the towing and initial cost of the tickets, the Munch Box is costing Stack and Kothen $25 a day while it stays in the impound lot.
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